MADRID Jan 17 Spain's government on Thursday
launched a social housing plan offering properties at low rents
to some families who have been evicted from their homes.
Close to 6,000 properties owned by the country's banks will
be offered to the most needy, the government said.
Evictions of those unable to keep up their mortgage payments
have become increasingly common in recession-bound Spain and
protest and campaigns to help vulnerable families grew last year
after the suicides of several people whose homes had been
At least 400,000 properties have been repossessed in Spain
since 2008, though not all of those are residential. Deep
spending cuts and a lengthy recession threaten to exacerbate the
problem as unemployment benefits run out for instance.
The Spanish government suspended evictions for two years for
those most in need last November in response to mounting public
anger, including those with young children, the disabled and the
The new housing plan is also aimed at the most vulnerable
people pushed out of their homes since early 2008, when a real
estate bubble burst.
The end of the property boom hit Spanish banks hard --
ultimately forcing the government to seek up to 100 billion
euros ($133.58 billion) in European aid for its lenders last
year -- and led to a growing spate of property repossession.
Spain's Economy Ministry estimated in November that 120,000
families could be in a position to qualify for the low-rent
scheme for evicted families, for which conditions are very
Single parents with two or more children for instance, or
families with at least one child under three are among those
that might be considered.
The 5,891 homes now up for grabs, were put forward by 33
Spanish banks, including nationalised lenders like Bankia
, which offered up the biggest number of properties.
The Bank of Spain and local municipalities have also signed up
to the plan, called the Social Housing Fund.
But campaigners and consumer groups have criticised the
measures on evictions taken by Spain so far, saying they fail to
help enough affected families and do not tackle some of the
roots of the problem, like poor mortgage-lending practices.
They also claim the government has shied away from damaging
its lenders too badly by taking more stringent measures that
could hurt their balance sheets.
"This moratorium (on evictions) is insufficient as it
excludes the majority of people affected through requirements
that are arbitrary and discriminatory," victims support group
PAH said in a recent statement.
The social housing plan signed on Thursday will make the
special rental contracts available for two years, with prices
varying between 150 and 400 euros a month. The government said
banks involved could eventually make more housing available.
Britain's Barclays and Germany's Deutsche Bank
, which have big retail operations in Spain, are among
those participating in the scheme.